muccamukk: River looking out of the frame, half turned away. (DW: River)
[personal profile] muccamukk
Haven't done one of these in a while. I'm leaving off a bunch of research reading for stuff with anon periods. Also, hi! Back now, I think.

What did you finish reading?
The Seventh Bride by T. Kingfisher, narrated by Kaylin Heath
Well that was... horrifying. I mean, I guess I should have been warned by Vernon's YA author name, but jeeze. There is a lot of body horror in this book, though not happening to the heroine, and a lot of a teenage girl in terrifying situations. I was reading this to get away from my gothic run, and did not realise it was a Bluebeard retelling, and was therefore way more gothic than anything else I'd read.

All that aside, I quite liked it. The language was modern and chatty, and it was a clear case of made up fantasy land, which may or may not be set in a post-apoca future, or just on a slightly secondary world. The capitol is never named, people know about South American fauna, magic makes the hollyhocks plaid.

The main character and the various living wives we meet are coping with an extremely dire situation in a variety of messed up ways, and they were quite well drawn, if perhaps a little one-note. I did like how our heroine interacted with them, and how she was an essentially kind person who just got stuck in this awful abusive situation, and I liked that the blame was placed squarely where it belonged, by her at least. Clockwife was my favourite.

Should read some of the stuff meant for a gentler audience at some point.

The Dispatcher by John Scalzi, narrated by Zachary Quinto
I keep trying Scalzi, and I keep not liking his writing. I think it's time to admit are differences and go separate ways. Probably still read his blog.

I'm fine with the high concept set up, sure, whatever, but if something like that existed, there is no way literally everyone on earth wouldn't know all the graphic details, because holy shit people coming back form the dead! So having the main character explaining to everyone, including a cop? Super awkward, especially when he seemed to know all the legal implications and the cop hadn't even heard of them. The cop seemed pretty bad at her job and unaware of what was going on, so the mc had to do basically everything.

I figure out who did it and why miles before the protagonist did, as well, which didn't help. And while it had black and latino leads, it failed the Bachdel test. I'm not sure why the entire Dispatcher profession was male, either.

At least this one was free. Two stars because I like ZQ's voice, and the poor man was trying so hard.

A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar, narrated by Josh Hurley
I enjoyed this much more on audiobook than I would have as a paper book, I think. I suspect I would have gotten bored and wandered off pretty early in, and spent far too much time looking things up in the dictionary. As it stands, I enjoyed (for the most part) listening to the overly-elaborate language flow over me, and enjoyed the story when it happened to occur.

It was not a fast-paced book, but I enjoyed the setting, and the religious conflict that the narrator inadvertently ended up in the middle of was interesting, if slightly depressing. I found the ghost character almost entirely unsympathetic, which was fine, she didn't have to be likeable, but the narrator mooning over her half the book was a bit much given how horrible she was to everyone, by her own admission. On the other hand, the narrator was at end-of-Gulliver's-Travels levels of detached from reality at that point.

The frequent tangents into local mythology/folk lore/poetry were better than such thing often are, although the whole story did sound very samey, instead of a plethora of voices as one would expect from that. King James translation of what was actually going on, maybe; the narrator never could resist a ten-cent word. Having different narrators, or even one for the story sections would have helped.

Not sure if I'll read the next one. It took me long enough to get through this.

The Riddle-Master of Hed (Riddle-Master #1) by Patricia A. McKillip, narrated by Simon Prebble
Fabulous book. I miss high fantasy that dgaf about how magic worked, or what the rules were, and just fell into mythology like a watercolour painting of fog. The characters are drawn so clearly and beautifully, and it's impossible not to feel with Morgon as he's wrenched away from the life he wants and given one impossible choice after another. It's also a middle ages(ish) secondary world fantasy that is full of women in just about every role.

Loved the narrator. Hell of a cliffhanger ending though.

Heir of Sea and Fire (Riddle-Master #2) by Patricia A. McKillip, narrated by Fiona Walsh
Even better than the first one, with a tighter plot and a second look at a lot of minor characters from the first story. I love that it was the adventure of the off-page fiancée from the first book, one of the warrior princesses, and the previous main character's little sister. The book again had a fabulous voice, though slightly different from the first, and taking a different perspective on the same characters we'd already met. I still love the sort of water colour tarot deck feeling of the mythology, where a character can turn into a crow basically because he does that, and the armies of the dead are bargained with over a fire.

I also loved the very Taran Wanderer for grown ups feeling of trying to find ones self, and honing magic and skill to service your existing identity, rather than letting them control who you are. I loved how the story was about our heroine finding herself, but also about her finding the old hero of the last book, and bringing him back, through sea and fire.

The narrator of this book was also good, but I wish she and the last guy had put their heads together, as they pronounced most of the proper nouns slightly differently (calling the land of Hed Head or Heed, for example). I wish I'd found this series sooner.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
Very interesting, and certainly better than Rise of the Rocket Girls, both in terms of prose and organisation. I liked how it incorporated the politics of the Space Age and the Civil Rights Era with the women's lives. It made a good choice of picking four women and sticking with them through a relatively brief period (WWII up through the Mercury Program, basically), rather than trying to cover dozens over decades. It adds some wonderful depth to other Space Age books, and I hope to see these women mentioned more often from now on.

The language was perhaps a bit overwrought in places, and I could have used slightly less context and slightly more science, but that's spoken from someone who's read a lot of Space Race books. There were also some small editing errors.

What are you reading now?
I'm about half way through Harpist in the Wind, the conclusion of the Riddle-Master trilogy. I'm picking away at Big Science again, having gotten it back from the library, and binge reading Royal We.

What are you reading next?
Probably go back to Cherryh and finish the Morgaine books. Audiobooks, idk, maybe Updraft by Fran Welsh.
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